(Photo by Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)
LOGAN, Utah – Five BYU cross country runners placed in the top 25 of the men’s NCAA Mountain Region Championships to give the Cougars a 3rd-place finish overall in Logan on Friday.
The No. 3-ranked Cougars finished behind Northern Arizona (first) and Colorado (second) with an overall total score of 79 points. The result mirrors the NCAA national ranking, which has the three teams claiming the top three slots. Head coach Ed Eyestone was pleased with the result and feels confident in where his team stacks up both in the region and in the nation.
“Ending up in third on the men’s side was actually what we were hoping to do today,” said coach Eyestone. “NAU is a powerhouse, as is Colorado. The three of us are ranked No. 1, 2, and 3 in the country, and we finished in first, second, and third here today. We ran a really controlled race, and I am pleased with the result. We still had to reach down and really work there at the end, and we did that.”
On a 10k course that looped the runners through three figure eights, the majority of athletes remained close together in a pack until the final three miles when the group thinned out. Senior Nico Montanez led all BYU runners and placed fourth overall with a time of 30:59.50.
“I felt really controlled throughout the race,” said Montanez. “Going into it, I wanted top 10 but with each mile that went by, I became more and more confident that I was probably going to finish top five. For me, this has been a humbling experience to show the guys that if they work hard from the very beginning, then good things will happen.”
Eyestone was happy to see the senior captain head the charge for the Cougars and show grit at the end of the competition.
“I thought Nico did a great job,” Eyestone said. “He could have easily just jogged it in at the end but he was really determined to beat that group that he was with.”
Behind Montanez was freshman Brayden McLelland who took 15th place overall with a mark of 31:16.60. Less than a second later, junior Spencer Hanson crossed the finish line and placed 17th in 31:16.90.
Following Hanson was junior Jonathan Harper who finished in 31:19.40 and took 20th place overall. Only seconds after Harper was sophomore Clayton Young who placed 23rd and rounded out the five Cougars in the top 25. Young finished in 31:21.70.
The final two Cougars to cross the finish line were sophomore Daniel Carney (38th) and senior Mitchell Briggs (40th), who finished in 31:51.00 and 31:56.40, respectively.
All five Cougars in the top 25 recieved all-region honors.
With the third-place finish, the Cougars are expecting the first at-large bid to the NCAA Cross Country National Championships in Terre Haute, Indiana, on November 19. Rory Linkletter sat out the Mountain Region Championships but is expected to compete at Nationals.
“Now we start the recovery process,” concluded Eyestone after the Mountain Region Championships. “We’ll get some carbs in today, have an easy day tomorrow and hopefully we’ll be recovered and ready to go for next Saturday.”
For updates about BYU’s participation in the National Championships and other items, follow @BYUTFXC on Twitter.